Quality Street (1937) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
24 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
10/10
No, it's not a flop
Writer-6519 December 2007
The original play was set in the early 1800s during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. This is a very cute, funny comedy if you understand that it describes a time when a woman's future was defined by her looks, youth, fertility, and chastity. With the destruction of monastic life in England, the only future for a woman at the time of the play was marriage.

The witty cast and script made the film a lot of fun. Seem to recall reading that the Hollywood actresses of that era wanted to be in this movie, and I can see why - it was a hoot. Especially Eric Blore, who always turned in a good performance.

Western culture at the time of the play valued fertility in marriage highly, and men tended to want wives who were rounder than Miss Hepburn. Other than that, her performance was wonderful as always.
19 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Fascinating period piece
knscummings12 August 2006
Quality Street is a contrived romance, with a small cast, on a set that looks like a play stage, with few visual impacts and in B&W. So, why did we enjoy it so much? The cast, down to the overplayed smaller parts, all does a great job. The ensemble cast brings spirit to even the small parts, the dialogue is clever, and the asides and glances make it fun. We particularly enjoyed the set and period behaviors as great insights on life in the early 19th century. Hollywood did a great job in establishing this period essence through effective use of hints and props. If you like Hepburn, you will enjoy this moral story, with feminine strength in an unforgiving society. Worth a relook!
17 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Sometimes an old fashioned meringue is just what you want
sophia220612 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Someone said they liked this more than the overrated Philadelphia Story, now that might be a tiny bit over the top but I do adore this movie. I first saw it as child. The print was grainy and I could not get over the fact that one of the Miss Willoughby's looked like Marty Feldman in a dress. But it was pretty, pretty language, pretty clothes, pretty harmless people. As I learned more about the Napoleonic wars (and WWII that was just beginning a full boil as this movie was made) I gained a respect for the need for a palate cleanser such as this. It's acted in high style, a lite version of a French farce or Shakespeare at his most lighthearted.

Regardless of the fluff there are sinews in this piece that make the fluff more satisfying. Dr. Brown leaves his love, not a potential starving widow but a pretty thing more likely to marry if he's killed. The Throssels, rather than starve, take students and do fairly well although the smell of old maid schoolteacher is beginning to tire them. Dr. Brown is gently teased that he has aged himself as he has to compete for "Livvy's" attentions and he is lightly chastised for his inability to realize that 10 years must age his sweetheart. The herd of widows and old maids are not the cruel destructive soured bitter things they might have been but rather just a little catty and too nosy. They are the gatekeepers of morality in fantasy land. The way Dr. Brown rips down the school sign and gentle accepts responsibility for Susan displays a knowledge of the peril in which unmarried poor women stood in the early part of the 19th Century. And finally, love makes even an old maid lovely.

This is a perfect movie when you're feeling bruised by life and the extremes of overly produced films.
11 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
delightful comedy of errors
dm03228 August 2000
Delightful comedy of errors. Pheobe (Hepburn) is in love with the dashing Dr. Brown, but alas her love is unrequited. They meet again 10 years later on his return from the Napoleonic Wars. She has wilted under the strain of teaching little children and is self-conscious about her age. On a whim she decides to dress in her former radiant style, and ends up being mistaken by Dr. Brown for Pheobe's niece. They start to court, and from there it's all silly and predictable, but... sparkling dialogue, great acting and wonderful supporting parts (especially the nosy old spinsters at the windows)
12 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Charming, Light Romantic Comedy
ajrabbits13 December 2005
I was about to go to bed one night and was watching a movie on TCM. The movie I was watching had just ended and Quality Street started to play. I was so charmed by this movie that I had to stay up quite late and finish watching it. I just couldn't make myself push the off button on my remote:) Katharine is quite charming as Phoebe and plays her niece quite well too. I honestly don't think Katharine looks too old, as other reviews have stated. Franchot Tone is very handsome as the gullible soldier. A good supporting cast as well. It is a light, entertaining romantic comedy. Just as long as you think this while the movie plays, it won't disappoint.
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
A gem for fans of Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer
sixgal13 December 2008
This is a gem!--IF you like stories set in this time period to begin with. IF you like the more sentimental acting style prevalent in the 1930's. And probably IF you're female.

This has some resonance with Jane Austen's Persuasion. For me, it felt as if I'd found a new Georgette Heyer story, and on film! This is set in the Regency period in England. It is both romantic and comedic.

Katherine Hepburn gives another great performance, similar to her Jo March in Little Women. I don't find her acting over the top at all. Franchot Tone is a good foil for her--not a great actor, but pretty hunky. Additionally, it has a lovely cast full of the kind of character actors you see in films like the Greer Garson Pride and Prejudice. In this case, it's Fay Bainter, Estelle Winwood, and other notables giving the film a fey charm.
8 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
not bad
kyle_furr21 January 2004
I wasn't expecting much but i'm glad i watched it on turner classic movies. Katharine hepburn is great as usual and george stevens is a good director. I think this is better than the overrated philadelphia story. I also think that is better than most of the films she made with spencer tracy.
13 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Misread Signals
bkoganbing18 December 2009
For her second time in a James M. Barrie role, Katharine Hepburn starred in a remake of Quality Street. Hepburn had previously played a little Scot's minx in The Little Minister also for RKO.

Barrie did right by her again, she was well cast as one of the Throssel sisters of Great Britain of the Napoleonic Era. She and sister Fay Bainter look like they're doomed to be spinsters. Bainter has resigned herself to that fate, but Hepburn still has hopes.

But when she thinks Franchot Tone might be popping the question, he's only around to tell her he's doing what Admiral Nelson expects of every man, his duty to England. In 1805 he enlists in the army and Hepburn and Bainter go on teaching school.

Ten years go by and when Tone doesn't at first recognize Hepburn when he returns, she thinks her prime has passed. But she'll teach Tone a lesson by impersonating her own made up niece. And what a niece, a naughty flirt who entrances all the young blades returned from the wars and doing a job on Tone's ego as well.

Quality Street has a quality history, it was first performed on Broadway by the immortal Maude Adams in 1901 and then made a silent film in 1927 starring Marion Davies and Conrad Nagel. I can certainly see why William Randolph Hearst thought this a good role for Davies. She could be both a crinolined heroine and also use her comic talents as well. Hepburn also gets to use her full talents playing one role straight and imitating a fictitious person at the same time.

Quality Street got an Oscar nomination for Best Musical Score. If it sounds familiar the theme was recycled later on for the frontier film Rachel And The Stranger. It was even given words that were sung on record by that film's star Robert Mitchum.

And George Stevens after doing Alice Adams with Hepburn was assigned this one as well. He'd do even better the third and last time he worked with Hepburn in Woman Of The Year.

Quality Street is a good film, but I'm sure that Depression Era audiences found a Victorian Era comedy a bit dated.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Naughty But Niece
lugonian24 July 2016
QUALITY STREET (RKO Radio, 1937) directed by George Stevens, stars Katharine Hepburn in her third costume movie in a row (following 1936 releases of "Mary of Scotland and "A Woman Rebels"), and her first to be classified a comedy. Taken from the old stage play by Sir James M. Barrie, the same author whose work was used for Hepburn's 1934 release of THE LITTLE MINISTER, places the now legendary actress for the first of many times in the role of a spinster, but in this case not entirely throughout its 84 minutes.

The setting: "1805 England. Quality Street where a gentleman passerby is an event." Other than an event, Quality Street is also a location of homes where spinster women peep through their window curtains watching everything that goes on. The story introduces Susan Throssel (Fay Bainter), an old maid, hosting her spinster guests, sisters Mary (Estelle Winwood) and Fanny Willoughby (Helena Grant), and Henrietta Turnball (Florence Lake) as they crochet while one reads a book aloud. Phoebe (Katharine Hepburn), Susan's younger sister, arrives with the news of having met a certain individual dashing young man who's finds her fascinating, and will soon be arriving to tell her some important news. Thinking the young man to be interested in proposing marriage to Phoebe, Susan, once engaged to William, a Naval officer, offers her sister a wedding gown she never used. When Doctor Valentine Brown (Franchot Tone) comes to call, he surprises Phoebe with the news about enlisting in the Napoleonic war, stirring up bitter disappointment for her, especially after watching him marching off with the other enlistments. Ten years later, Phoebe and Susan, now spinster teachers at "The Misses Throssel School for Boys and Girls," find the soldiers returning home from war. Upon his arrival, Valentine becomes disappointed to find the once vibrant and beautiful Phoebe, now 30, looking old and tired. Noticing how the other ensigns (William Bakewell and Roland Varno) are wooing the young and silly Charlotte Parratt (Joan Fontaine), Phoebe abandons her drab existence by applying herself with new clothes and hair style. Phoebe's youthful appearance immediately attracts Valentine attention, who fails to recognize her as the girl he once loved. Passing herself off as her visiting flirtatious niece, Olivia, Phoebe not only becomes in Valentine's eyes, but after escorting her to the ball, attracts the attention of Charlotte's suitors as well. Problems arrive as the snoopy Henrietta and the Willoughby sisters suspect both Phoebe and "Livvy" to be one of the same, forcing Phoebe to wonder how long she'll be able to go on with her masquerade without arousing Valentine's suspicion and possibly losing him in the process.

Though the masquerading idea of woman attempting to fool the man she loves by becoming another identity is nothing new, it always seems to go well, especially wondering what will result for its climax. In spite the fact that QUALITY STREET was used as a basis of a silent 1927 MGM comedy starring Marion Davies, Conrad Nagel and Helen Jerome Eddy in the Hepburn, Tone and Bainter roles, the 1937 remake reportedly didn't do as well as the Davies original possibly due to Hepburn's current theatrical failures that labeled her at the time as "box-office poison." Even though QUALITY STREET somewhat resembles Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (successfully filmed by MGM in 1940) by way of locale, costume setting and spinster characters of the 19th century, the film itself is quite quaint and lavish scale with fine underscoring credited to Roy Webb. Of the supporting players, there's the comic relief of Eric Blore as a recruiting sergeant with a constant blink of an eye towards Patty (Cora Witherspoon); Fay Bainter providing character interest as both sympathetic spinster and mousy schoolteacher afraid of one of her students, a tall bully by the name of William Smith (Sherwood Bailey). It's also interesting spotting Estelle Winwood, a familiar face in many TV shows of the 1960s and 70s very early in her career, along with future Academy Award winner, Joan Fontaine, in two brief scenes, one with Hepburn.

Regardless of its reputation that caused QUALITY STREET to be seldom revived on commercial television back in the 1960s and 70s, the film itself began to surface more frequently later on with revivals on public television, home video (1980s-90s) and later DVD, cable television (American Movie Classics prior to 1998) and Turner Classic Movies. Alternative versions have usually been found through its opening credits: Title card Movietime" used in place of RKO Radio logo commonly shown in sixties and seventies; a brief glimpse insertion from an early RKO title, LET'S TRY AGAIN (1934) before the actual QUALITY STREET title fills the screen, or the restored theatrical opening on TCM. For anyone unfamiliar with both Hepburn and QUALITY STREET, it's worth seeing through once, at least out of curiosity (***)
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Don't stay up for this one
Drfootsi8 November 2005
Gosh, I hate to disagree with the previous posters/reviewers, but this is awful! Watching it was like taking a ninety minute dose of mental Castor oil.

Hepburn is WAY too old to be playing such a silly, frivolous part. One can almost see her teeth lengthening as the movie goes on! She looks ridiculous as the ingénue and more ridiculous as the "niece". Franchot Tone, who was a real hunk in his day, looks exhausted and bemused, as well as totally embarrassed to be in this stinker. Joan Fontaine is in the movie for about three minutes. For those three minutes, she is insufferable.

Fay Bainter is excellent as her usual vague, dithering self, but dear old Estelle Winwood looks like one of David Ickes lizard people! Her sole contribution to the movie is some stellar eye popping. I kept wondering why they ( the sisters) didn't just lock their doors!

Perhaps this movie is simply hopelessly dated, but after awhile, I just wanted it to be over so I could crawl up to bed at 1:30 AM.

Even my Mother, who is old enough to have seen this when it was out in the theaters, said, " That was the worst movie I ever saw. why did we stay up this long??" Good question, Mom!! Maybe we just couldn't believe Katherine Hepburn actually did this to herself.

James Barrie needed to stick to Neverland.
11 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Too many minus qualities!
JohnHowardReid28 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
NOTES: A critical and financial dud, the picture ended up $248,000 in the red after its worldwide release.

COMMENT: After an extremely slow and tedious beginning (with Eric Blore hogging the camera and mugging to no end) and a lot of tiresome chit-chat, this film picks up from the transformation scene when Hepburn decides to impersonate her flighty (and fictitious) niece. She looks quite fetching in her Walter Plunkett costumes and her personality is so entrancing as to make the deception almost credible.

It is Franchot Tone who lets the side down, as his expression and tone seems to convey that he is not taken in; when in reality, it is just old Franchot acting stiffly as usual and trotting out his usual mannerisms - the eyebrow raising and the tone of raillery in his voice - to no particular purpose. Hepburn tends to shade the other members of the cast and their characters are so sketchily developed that after a while they grow tiresome. Of course, this is a fault carried over from the Barrie play. It might be truly said that the picture is very much a filmed stage play - despite Stevens' endeavors to disguise the fact by inter-cutting from a wide variety of camera angles.

The film's most successful scenes are the brief interludes - such as the croquet match and other brief glimpses of Livvy's flirtations that have no counterpart in the original. Most of the film's dialogue is taken over intact from the play. Production values are excellent.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
A delightful play literally put to the screen!
abcj-219 March 2015
I appreciated this as a delightful play literally put to the screen. It was a bit of a mix of Jane Austen's Emma and perhaps Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford with a touch of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Of course, as written by James Barrie it had its own twist on British society as set in the early 1800's on Quality Street where every woman on it knows everyone's business.

This is more of an endorsement and less of a plot review, though. I rarely love Katharine Hepburn. I appreciate her as a fine actress, and it was nice to see her acting feminine without fighting for feminism. She was sweet and restrained with just the right amount of tears, smiles, and feminine wiles. This is not something we see much of or at all after this film. This is definite a 1930's version of a chick flick.

The supporting cast shines all the way. I adore Franchot Tone and love seeing him in the lead. The women on Quality were written and acted so well but with the satiric and comic flare to make this a fun little romp. I particularly noticed they got the costuming right with the Empire waist gowns and not the hoop skirts used in 1940's delightful but totally inaccurate as to wardrobe in Pride and Prejudice.

Just as the above authors' work still holds up today, so does this delightful little film.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
One of the best of Hepburn's 'lousy RKO films'
barrymn15 March 2015
Despite many of the other reviews, I find this film (along with her "A Woman Rebels"), one of the best of the films that originally did poorly at the box office and contributed Hepburn's career downturn in the late 1930's.

It IS a precious little comedy of errors, but it's also quite a hoot. Besides Hepburn and Fay Bainter's good performances, there's amusing supporting performances from Cora Witherspoon, Eric Blore, and especially from Estelle Winwood, who made so few films during this era, despite being a seasoned stage actress. Her part is very funny and she plays it beautifully.

Give this film another viewing and you'll enjoy it. The only real issue I have with the film is (in typical 1930's/1940's fashion), Katharine Hepburn's makeup after 10 years is not much different from what she looked like at the start of the film.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
Dreadfully slow and a tad silly
MartinHafer29 May 2007
While at the time this was an important film for the career of Katherine Hepburn, today it seems incredibly stilted and dull. This is because it is a very stuffy costume picture--just the sort of film that emphasizes costumes and stilted language (oh joy) over action and characters. Plus the main idea of the story just seems ludicrous and silly. The film begins with Katherine in love with Franchot Tone but he doesn't realize it. He soon goes off to fight in the Napoleonic Wars for 10 years and when he returns, he sees a radiant woman who he thinks can't be Hepburn because she seems so young. Now here's the silly part. Instead of telling him that she's just well-preserved, she pretends to be her own niece. Sure,...an IDENTICAL niece--in movies, this sort of thing happens all the time (and if you believe this, I'll sell you some oceanfront property in Kansas). So we have a ludicrous idea and an incredibly stilted period piece--just the sort of film that will bore most anyone who tries to watch it. My advice is try seeing some of Kate's other films--almost all of them (except for SPITFIRE) are better. I just can't see why some of the reviewers liked this film so much--it was so very, very dull.

By the way, despite all this criticism for the writing, Hepburn DID do a great job and she looked positively beautiful. I really admired how she cried real tears in one scene. Also, while I thought the plot was silly, somehow the silent version with Marion Davies worked much, much better and I do recommend you see that one instead.
8 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Insufferable comedy of manners...too quaint, too precious for words...
Doylenf11 August 2006
No wonder KATHARINE HEPBURN was considered box-office poison around the time of QUALITY STREET. As a James M. Barrie heroine, she's as mannered and coy as ever in a silly, very dated comedy of manners that never manages to be the witty romp it strives to be.

Only FRANCHOT TONE gives the story any semblance of wit or reality, looking handsome and fit as the suitor who finally sees through the deception around him.

James M. Barrie has had little success in being transferred to the screen, except, of course, for his PETER PAN. His other works became feeble domestic comedies on screen--namely "Alice Sit By the Fire" which became DARLING, HOW COULD YOU? with Joan Fontaine, and worst of all, QUALITY STREET. Both deserve to be forgotten.

I would venture to guess that this is the sort of dated period fluff that gives films of the 1930s a bad name. (Unfairly so, since many films of the '30s were deservedly praised). It's so stylized in its comedy, so forced in its humor that even the wonderful ERIC BLORE is at a loss as to just how many double takes he should do. Even such wonderful actresses as ESTELLE WINWOOD and FAY BAINTER have a hard time doing anything with their material.

Do yourself a favor and skip this one. Not even the staunchest James M. Barrie fan will want to sit through it.

Trivia note: If you're alert enough, you can catch Joan Fontaine in a bit role.
7 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Box Office Poison
JamesHitchcock23 November 2019
Does anyone know how Quality Street, a popular brand of confectionary here in Britain, got its name? Or why for many years the brand was advertised using a picture of a dashing soldier and his pretty sweetheart, both dressed in the costumes of the early 19th century? The reason (and I only discovered this recently) is that "Quality Street" is the name of a play by J M Barrie (of "Peter Pan" fame) and that the soldier and the girl are based upon characters in the play, which was still popular in the British theatre when the brand was first launched in 1936. "The Quality" was a now-obsolete term for the wealthy classes, and "Quality Street" referred to those parts of a town where such people lived.

The play also seems to have been popular in the American theatre, and it was made into two Hollywood films, a silent one from 1927 with Marion Davies in the leading role (which I have never seen) and this one from 1937, made by RKO Radio Pictures. In 1805 Phoebe Throssel, an inhabitant of Quality Street, is a beautiful young woman of twenty. She has set her heart upon the handsome Dr. Valentine Brown, and when he tells her that he has something important to say to her she assumes this will be a proposal of marriage. All he has to say, however, is that he has enlisted in the army to fight against Napoleon.

Fast forward to 1815. The Napoleonic Wars are over. Phoebe, still unmarried and helping her older sister Susan to run a school, is now a beautiful young woman of thirty. Did I say Phoebe is beautiful? Yes, of course she is. She is, after all, played by Katharine Hepburn, perhaps the loveliest star of the period, herself thirty years old at the time the film was made. Well, perhaps the role was originally intended for another actress, or perhaps the film-makers did not notice just how beautiful Katharine was, because the plot revolves around the idea that Phoebe has lost her looks in the intervening ten years and is no longer attractive. When Dr Brown, now a captain in the Army, returns to Quality Street Phoebe (whose heart is still set on him) passes herself off as her own (non-existent) niece Olivia ("Livvy"). As Phoebe endows the supposed "Livvy" with an outgoing, flirtatious personality quite unlike her own, this act of deception leads to various complications.

I have never seen a performance of Barrie's play, so have no idea how this scenario might work out on stage. (It is almost never staged today; it might still have been popular in the thirties, but in more recent years it has, like most Edwardian dramas, vanished into obscurity). In the film, however, it just does not work at all. Katharine Hepburn as the 20-year-old Phoebe looks very much the same as she does as the 30-year-old Phoebe or as "Livvy", so it seems incredible that Captain Brown, or anyone else, is taken in by her ruse. The film is set in England, but not all the cast sound English. Hepburn's English accent is a good one, but Franchot Tone as Brown makes no effort to hide his American accent, and no effort is made by the scriptwriters to explain it away (e.g. by making his character Canadian).

Katharine Hepburn is today widely regarded as one of the greatest screen actresses of all time; her record of four "Best Actress" Oscars has never been equalled, let alone beaten, by another actress. (Only one, Meryl Streep, has won three). It therefore comes as a surprise to learn that she was not always held in such high esteem and that in 1938 she was one of a group of actors labelled "box office poison". "Quality Street", which was a financial flop when released in 1937, was one of several films which contributed to this label. Hepburn's own reputation was to recover, especially after she appeared in the highly successful "The Philadelphia Story", but that of this film continued to languish, and today it has deservedly joined Barrie's play in obscurity. 4/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
A little silly
HotToastyRag31 October 2017
On Quality Street, women occupy their time by either witnessing or passing gossip about their friends and neighbors. Whenever there's a gentleman caller, all the neighbors peer out their windows and stare, taking note of how he was dressed, if he brought flowers, and how long he stayed. What else is there to do in 1805?

Katharine Hepburn and her old maid sister Fay Bainter live on Quality Street, and while they primarily socialize with other old maids and gossipers in town, Kate has one particular friend she treasures: the dashing Franchot Tone. She's known Franchot for a year, and when she thinks he's going to propose, the rumor gets spread all over town. It turns out he enlisted in the army instead, and Kate feels humiliated. Ten years later, Franchot comes home from the war. He's a little gray at the temples, and Kate is no longer the blushing beauty he remembers. Can they fall in love again or is it too late?

While it has an intriguing premise, the rest of the film is pretty silly. In order to get him back, Kate throws caution to the wind and acts like a harlot with all the other men in town, and her mischief-making gets a little long in the tooth after a few scenes. It is great fun to see Kate all dolled up, though. She's more beautiful than she's ever looked in her movies, and her flirtations are charming and sweet. I'm fans of both Kate and Franchot, but Fay Bainter was my favorite character in the film. She was unselfish and a wonderful sister, and I wish she'd taken some screen time away from Kate's silliness.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
early hepburn & tone. a little dated, but fun.
ksf-29 August 2017
Hepburn had been in the biz for a few years when she made "Quality Street", a story from Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. Hepburn is "Phoebe", who had her heart set on Doctor Brown (Franchot Tone), but it was not to be. Off to war for him. Look for the awesome Estelle Winwood, in only her third role at age 54 ! And the amazing Eric Blore, who was so great as the impish butler in all those fred astaire films. When Phoebe has a reunion with Brown, she poses as her own, much younger, niece, confusing Miss Willoughby (Winwood) and her neighbors, as well as Brown. (Did you see that HAT?? it's hilarious., at 43 minutes in) Watch it just for that hat, if nothing else. It's kind of a "much ado about nothing" story, but it IS a fun, goose-chase of a caper. Fay Bainter does a great job as the fragile flower, Phoebe's sister, afraid of her own shadow. Bainter won the best supporting for Jezebel the year after making Quality Street. In our story, "the niece" spends her time flirting with Brown and everyone else. Will that make him jealous? Which one will Brown choose? or maybe neither one. Directed by George Stevens, who directed Hepburn three times. Stevens won two Oscars in the 1950s, but it wasn't while working with Hepburn. Fun running gag where every time someone knocks at a front door, all the neighbors look through the the curtains to see who is calling on their neighbor. For some reason, they hardly ever show this on Turner Classics. Granted, it's pretty lightweight, plot-wise, but it IS a fun chance to see early Hepburn and Tone. There's a blending here, where the actors are all having fun, and it comes through to the viewer. I recommend this one, if you can catch it.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
sweet film
blanche-223 October 2012
"Quality Street" from 1937 stars Katharine Hepburn, Franchot Tone, Fay Bainter, and Estelle Winwood. It's directed by George Stevens, who directed Hepburn later in Woman of the Year.

Hepburn plays Phoebe Throssel, a lovely young woman living with her spinster sister (Bainter) and surrounded by other spinsters who are neighbors in 1800. Phoebe is in love with one man, Valentine Brown -- as is pointed out in the film, other men have come calling, but Phoebe didn't want them.

Valentine, however, is off to the Napoleonic Wars. When he returns ten years later, Phoebe and her sister have opened a school in their home. Phoebe is embarrassed at being so exhausted and believes she has lost her looks. Nevertheless, Valentine wants her to attend the homecoming ball.

Phoebe, trying to prove something to herself, puts on a fancy dress and does her hair differently. When Valentine arrives, she introduces herself as Olivia ("Livvie"), Phoebe's niece. She gives him Phoebe's regrets, but she doesn't feel well. The two attend the ball together, where Livvy is surrounded by men. She believes that she now has a chance of Valentine proposing to Livvy. If only she can stay away from people who can expose her.

James Barrie wrote many plays that were performed by some of theater's biggest stars at the beginning of this century so it's no wonder Hollywood made it as a movie. It still retains many of its play-like qualities.

The character actors -- Bainter, Winwood, Eric Blore, are wonderful. Tone is very handsome though he doesn't have much to do. Though some might disagree, I felt Hepburn was somewhat miscast. Her portrayal of Phoebe/Livvie, though energetic, feels "put on" rather than organic. She was a tremendously strong actress but pulls back here - it doesn't seem natural.

The cast must have had a great deal of patience - Stevens, known as a very nice man, was known for having actors do 40 takes of one scene; it's one reason why Montgomery Clift never worked for him again after A Place in the Sun. He just didn't have the patience for it.

This is a charming, light film that looks stagy, but that shouldn't hurt your enjoyment of it.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Spinsters of Quality Street.
michaelRokeefe23 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This RKO Radio Picture directed by George Stevens isn't mentioned a lot, but is a nice little romantic comedy evocative of the mid '30s. The Throssel sisters Phoebe(Katherine Hepburn)and Susan(Fay Bainter)are both smitten with the dashing Dr. Valentine Brown(Franchot Tone). The sisters are crushed when he enlists in the British Army and claims he is leaving no sweetheart behind. Two nosy neighbor spinsters on Quality Street(Cora Witherspoon and Estelle Winwood)keep reminding Phoebe and Susan that Dr. Brown will return someday from the war, but who will he possibly propose to. After ten years, the still stunning Brown comes marching home and proudly appears at the Throssel house. When it is Miss Phoebe that Brown invites to the Homecoming Ball, he hardly recognizes her. Feeling humiliated Phoebe changes her hair style and buys a new gown and passes herself off as her niece. What effect will this have on the returning soldier, let alone the nosy neighbors? Also in the cast: Helena Grant, Eric Blore and Joan Fontaine.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Lackluster piece though Hepburn & Tone are good
mrcaw118 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Hard to believe that this film, produced by the great Pandro Berman, directed by the formidable George Stevens & acted by a cast of A-list talent, led by Katharine Hepburn & Franchot Tone could turn out so poorly.

I think a lot of the fault lies in the way the movie was photographed. It's extremely stagy. As if the movie were being acted on a stage and simply shot.

Also, too much of the movie takes place in one house set. When the movie finally shifts locales it's SUCH a welcome relief. There are even some genuine outside shots that breathe fresh air into the movie. Unfortunately, they pass all to quickly and soon enough where back in that darn house room set!

Of course, the plot is rather silly made even more so by the fact that the "ten years older" version of Hepburn basically looks as if they simply didn't put any makeup on her. So when her character simply puts on a pretty dress, does her hair & puts on some makeup to transform her into her "niece" and Franchot Tone actually buys this, well of course it's ridiculous. But I suppose that's a classic Shakespearean device so who am I to quibble.

At least the movie DOES get better once Hepburn has to play both herself & her niece.

Still, the movie is ultimately forgettable.

I think small children might like it actually due to it's very simplistic and almost childish presentation.

Oh and poor Estelle Winwood really does look like Marty Feldman (Igor from 1974's YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN).
3 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
Quality Street Lacks Just That *1/2
edwagreen20 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
George Stevens made 2 bombs in his career-"The Greatest Story Ever Told," and this 1937 misery.

We all age in 10 years. What's so new about that? Franchot Tone returns from the Napoleonic Wars and can't adjust to Phoebe, (Hepburn) so she pretends to be a younger, more glamorous Libby. The entire picture then becomes one of Hepburn trying to hide the fact that Libby and Phoebe are really the same person. Estelle Woodward, who is actually young in 1937, is suspicious but utter than her facial grimaces, she really has nothing much to do here. Ditto for Fay Bainer as the sister, who seems to be befuddled by this whole mess.

The usually hysterical Eric Blore is greatly subdued by a silly script.
2 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
2/10
Even Hepburn makes a bum film
denscul18 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Actually, its hard to describe whats wrong with this film. Everything should be in place. Hepburn,Tone, Stevens, good supporting cast. Good photography. Ah, yes, the writing. That's probably the problem. The writing is syrupy sweet, the dialog appropriate for the 19th century, and then it was probably over the top in social correctness. The plot-well the plot is in the simply dumb.

As any film buff knows, Hepburn's career was not like a meteor. She had a good start, but had a sucession of terrible films which didn't make money. From a business point of view, for most film producers, a film is good if it makes money. Most do not care if the film is loved by the critics. Its nice if everybody praises the film, but bad films and bad box office have usually ended many promising careers. Hepburn's greatest accomplishment was overcoming her "sophomore jinx" There are many "flash in the pans"- in sports, the arts and business. What counts in the end is staying power. Just look at her life accomplishments. She ended her career like she started-one of films greatest stars.
1 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
won't convert anyone who doesn't like this sort of movie
skiddoo20 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
If you enjoy stories from the early 1800s you might like this movie. It's a mild example of the type--pleasant, with moments of funny lines and good acting, and nobody is really fooled by the woman posing as her own niece, just confused over the cover up. The friends are not dopes, and neither is her fella. At first he seems as if he has a cruel streak which is probably from a lack of experience with sensitive women after so many years in the military and the difference between his memory and the reality--he was used to the way HE had aged, but he comes across by the end as an exceptionally nice guy, a real catch, with a taste for daffy dames rather than the plump sweet young things he was supposed to favor. He joined in with the ridiculous plan with stylish conviction when he figured out what was going on.

And of course Phoebe's mistake was being so hurt, and who wouldn't feel shocked when confronted by the knowledge that you have wasted your youth loving a man who thinks you are dowdy and unattractive and can't even recognize you when you are dressed up, that she decided to play this deception, likely because she read too much and lived too little to immediately see how foolish it was. It spiraled out of control because of her nosy neighbors who wouldn't allow her to merely send Livvy home and forget the whole thing. I have to think it did Phoebe's ego a world of good to be pursued so ardently by the soldiers! I'm sure when she got married her husband got to see both the restrained and capable school teacher and the goofy social butterfly in her from then on, which was probably a far better outcome than if everything had gone well from the start.

Modern reviewers can't know what original audiences thought of these movies but Depression era viewers would certainly have had an acute understanding of what happened to a woman without a man in an era when a woman had no rights or protections. Many a Depression era woman decided to settle, as Phoebe's sister did, for her situation and become a confirmed spinster school teacher, a type that my father disliked as much as the man in this movie. (In the 30s US, if a woman married she lost her teaching job.) And teachers were paid so little in the Depression that they boarded in people's homes or got rooms with other teachers, in my mother's case with her sister as in this movie, enduring intense financial distress and societal restriction that could make a woman seem old before her time. There were many women in the 30s who became single, childless career women from necessity, just as there were after WWI and other wars around the world. There were so many single, childless women scratching out a living in Britain after WWI that there was a name for them and they had a little social world of their own. So I would say this movie would have been a lot more comprehensible to audiences in the Depression than to us.

Hepburn was 30 when this came out. That was the right age for the story. In the 1930s, and in the early 1800s, 30 was NOT the new 20. 30 was well into maturity.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed